Understanding the drivers to employee engagement is a critical skill for effective business leaders today. Employee engagement intelligence is a strong indicator of company and employee performance. Highly engaged employees have been shown to increase business successes whereas lower engaged, or actively disengaged employees have been shown to disrupt and negatively impact motivation of the employee workforce. This paper will explore the case study, Cincinnati Super Subs (McShane, 2013) in which a large Midwest sub sandwich chain is experiencing a demotivated workforce and revolving challenges are faced by the management.
There are a number of symptoms within Cincinnati Super Subs that would suggest that employee engagement is challenged. Over the past eighteen months, the company has experienced below average results in regards to the bottom line, breaches in store policy, low morale, high employee turnover and an increase in wasted product. Management bonuses are tied to a percentage of profits relative to wastage of product and the two members of the management team have not received bonuses for the past 5 months. This has led the management team to enforce harsher and stricter terms on employees. Employees also regularly help themselves and give away product seemingly without any negative consequence.
Team leaders have also not readily reported wastage or unauthorized employee eating to management for fear of repercussions from staff. Finally, current employees are discouraging and not recommending Cincinnati Super Subs as a good place to work. In addition to challenges of retaining experienced team members, management is also having difficulty recruiting new team members.
Starting with the management team, there is inadequate supervision and engagement with the employees. The manager is discouraged to work on the front line and the assistant manager is also limited in his interaction by the front office. There also appears to be an absence of goal setting by management for the employees. Goal setting clarifies role perceptions and motivates employees by establishing objective performance measures (McShane & Von Glinow, 2013). Limited interaction between the management and staff, unclear role definition of the management and employees, and harsh management tactics to influence employee behavior has all contributed to the companies failures.
Based on direction by the head office, management does not have the opportunity to engage in behavior modeling. Management must have the opportunity to engage and interact with employees on the front line. People learn not only by observing others but also by imitating and practicing these behaviors (Calabrese, 1997). Assuming that the managers are in fact modeling best practice behavior, the employee may learn from these behavioral queues and gain more confidence in the desired performance. Another opportunity to engage with staff is to have set meetings for both the management and employee teams to sit and review current concerns and acknowledge successful performance. In regards to goal setting, instead of each employee facing negative financial consequences for all wastage, management could provide a wastage allowance that each employee must stay below before there are pay reductions.
Also, clearly defining roles between the assistant manager and manager would also benefit the company. The assistant manager should be allowed more time on the floor engaging with and developing the employees while the manager can focus on more back office duties such as reviewing the meal and wage policy to be more favorable to the employees. This will assist the managers in having more control over wastage while retaining and recruiting a skilled work force. While this may appear to be more costly upfront, the company will benefit by retaining a skilled workforce, spending less time recruiting, and influencing employee behavior by increasing the perceived value of the product.
Cincinnati Super Subs has a realistic opportunity to improve morale and productivity. The company offers a desirable product in a high demand market and has access to a highly skilled low wage college student workforce. Improving employee engagement by understanding what is driving employee behavior and clearly defining goals and employee roles is necessary to improve productivity and company compliance.
Calabrese, G. (1997). Communication and co-operation in product development: A case study ofa European car producer. R&D Management, 27. 239-252. McShane, S.L., & Von Glinow, M.A. (2013). Organization behavior: Emerging knowledge.Global reality. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.